Thursday, April 12, 2007

a different kind of women's issues

This month's edition of Runner's World actually raised an issue I've been meaning to write about for a while - women in running. Amazingly, I think a lot of people in my generation are completely unaware of how much this sport has changed for women in the 30 years or so. It used to be believed that distance running hurt women's reproductive abilities. Women weren't allowed to even try to prove that they could handle running. No one believed we were capable of doing it.

Not until 1971 were women officially allowed to enter the Boston marathon. There wasn't a women's Olympic marathon until 1982 - 1982!! Today, its recognized that women can handle long distance running, and in fact, women may excel at distance running even more than men. Unlike many other sports, in ultra-marathons, women can actually beat men. For example, Pam Reed has won the Badwater Ultramarathon twice.

It makes me realize that my running is also a proud feminist statement. I'm not just taking care of myself, but I'm continuing to stand up for my right to run. Just like I can't imagine being held back in my career by my sex, I can't imagine being held back in my ability to run a race because I'm a woman. Within my lifetime, this is such a major change. Its hard for me to even imagine the world as it was for those trailblazers in the 60s and 70s. It makes me feel responsible to stand up for what I believe in. The world won't change unless somebody makes it. This is also why women's races are so important. Its not that we should exclude men, its more that we need to recognize how much women have overcome. The women's movement has revolutionized our world as much as the civil rights movement did, and I think its important to acknowledge that history. Women were and still are a disadvantaged group. We should be proud of our achievements.

I also think its interesting to note that the rise of women in running also correlates to the decline in elite running. I never hear that women are to blame for this decline, but perhaps that is part of what is underlying the argument that slow runners are degrading the sport. Over shorter races women generally are slower. The advent of running as an activity to stay in shape is probably pretty connected to women. Again, that's not a bad thing. Women have changed the sport, and those women who did deserve all of our admiration.

Weight: 158
Miles: 3 (treadmill 32:40)

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